BWW Reviews: 3-D Theatricals Offers Up a Gorgeous FUNNY GIRL, Ends 9/29
There are plenty of speculative reasons why actual productions---local or otherwise---of that great 1964 behemoth of a stage musical FUNNY GIRL have been noticeably few and far between. For one, for a show that focuses mostly on one character (albeit a very memorable one), it's a surprisingly luxe, large-scale musical... well, if done properly. And, secondly---and, perhaps, most importantly---the show has one helluva legacy to live up to... particularly, involving the person who shot up to stratospheric heights because of it.
Yes, of course, thy name is Barbra.
When the ultra-talented Streisand triumphantly took on---or rather, fully-embodied---the role of real-life entertainer/comedy legend Fanny Brice both, first, on Broadway and, later, in the musical's much-beloved Oscar-winning big-screen adaptation, it forevermore became difficult to picture nearly anyone else in the role of the feisty, rain-on-parade-averse comic genius with a penchant for mysterious gamblers in unstarched shirts. For Streisand, Fanny Brice was, arguably, a career-defining role of a lifetime.
Not counting, of course, the fictional revival being mounted within the story-lines of the TV musical series GLEE (where resident superstar Lea Michele's character Rachel was seen auditioning for the lead role last season), there have been very little attempts to put on a full-scale, Broadway-caliber revival of the show, especially here in Southern California. Even the long-awaited pre-Broadway revival that was to originate at Center Theatre Group's Ahmanson Theatre---which was set to star Six Feet Under's Lauren Ambrose as Fanny---was sadly cancelled just mere months before its scheduled January 2012 premiere.
Fast forward to September of 2013 and, well... all I have to say is Woo-Hoo! Thank goodness Southern California wasn't deprived of a revival of FUNNY GIRL after all. And, gosh, to top it off, they've even managed to find a Fanny Brice audiences can genuinely admire. Hello, Gorgeous!
Stepping forward---not surprisingly---with the bold audacity to put together their own regional production of the Jule Styne/Bob Merrill classic about the tumultuous life of Fanny Brice is none other than Orange County, California's own home-grown regional theater group 3-D Theatricals. Founded just a few years ago, the local arts collective has risen sharply among its peers and has shown a continuous meteoric rise in critical and audience praise with each subsequent offering (The evidence? Their recent exquisite production of Jason Robert Brown's PARADE just garnered the most 2013 Ovation Award nominations of any show this year). After receiving endless cheers in their home base at the Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton since it opened September 6, their production of FUNNY GIRL will now play its final performances from September 27 through the 29 at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center.
Under the direction of Michael Matthews---and featuring choreography by Kami Seymour and musical direction by Gerald Sternbach---3-DT's truly admirable FUNNY GIRL is a lovingly-rendered, appropriately large-scale production that honors its source material (though, perhaps, too stringently), highlighting the show's strengths with careful consideration. And, like its predecessors, the show, more than anything else, provides a showcase for the gifted actress that has been blessed with the title role.
For this exceptional production, that undertaking is being handled by the fantastic Nicole Parker, a brilliant comedienne with enormous appeal and a singing voice that more than lives up to the big shoes---and the fake baby bump---she has to fill. A master with contorted facial expressions and well-timed comebacks (a snarky touch to the character I actually found rather charming), it's hard not to notice that Parker's six-year stint as a cast member and writer on the Fox network sketch show MAD TV seeped into her portrayal, and, I must say, it absolutely worked.